America has a thing with taking perfectly good foreign movies and turning them into forgettable dreck. For Takashi Shimizu’s franchise Ju-On, this has now happened twice: the original 2004 remake starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, and this 2020… whatever the hell it is. Director Nicolas Pesce takes the ideas and even some direct shots from the original films and turns it into a new storyline that builds a new grudge at a different house that has plagued various owners ever since a disturbing 2004 murder related to the previous Japanese haunting; meant as a reimagining of other Grudge films, it ultimately plays out less like homage than cookie-cutter copy.
The film’s narrative is a horrid mess of time jumps, which is TheGrudge‘s first big mistake. Look away and you might find yourself transported to an entirely different year without much fanfare. Normally, non-linear narratives work because they tend to have something grounding the audience throughout; but Pesce jumps constantly without warning, without any consistent reasoning. The film is meant to follow new detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough) as she investigates the history of this haunted house, but the setup doesn’t make any sense. She’s poring over casefiles which is used as a device to transport the viewer back in time, but what we see playing out would not be contained in said files, and Pesce even makes random jumps in time during these flashbacks that are entirely disjointed. There were a few times where I had to rewind the film just to understand why we went from point A to point B – not a good look for a film.
Even worse, though, is that The Grudge‘s various hauntings are overwhelmingly bland. Pesce employs jump scare after jump scare to generate suspense, which becomes dull the second or third time it occurs. There is sometimes promise of a more unique scare, but it’s all wasted on generic plots. Pesce also “pays homage” to previous Grudge films, but these come off as poor facsimiles rather than tributes. Despite featuring three different grudge elements, The Grudge is ultimately a boring mix of ideas that never really culminate into anything substantial.
It’s unfortunate that talent like John Cho and William Sadler is wasted here, as are the admittedly good gore effects. Also of note is the strong lighting and photography, which does add a bit of character to this old house. Blues and yellows are used to good effect in different sequences, and if The Grudge succeeds at anything, it’s the variety of its palette.
Other than that, there’s nothing within Pesce’s vision that hasn’t been done before, both in previous Grudge films and better ghost movies since their release. This is a movie that loses the viewer’s passion almost immediately upon setting foot over the threshold.
Our extensive screenshots from this Blu-ray release.
Sony Pictures has released The Grudge on Blu-ray with an HD disc and a digital code. The picture quality is quite good with minimal noticeable compression; as previously mentioned, the color hues are well-represented and there were no crushed blacks on display in darker scenes. Our BD info reveals a somewhat low bitrate of 24857 kbps.
Audio provides a lot of options for non-English viewers; besides an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, there are also French and Spanish lossy tracks and also English and French audio descriptive tracks. The English 5.1 sounds good with no apparent issues, quite dynamic especially with the film’s bombastic emotional score. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also included.
Extra features are limited but there are three press kit-esque special features, most running about three to four minutes. The first does a quick dive into the film’s special effects, the second talks to the cast about the premise, and the third divulges all of the easter eggs from previous films. This does less to impress the viewer than to showcase how much is taken directly from the other films, though. Finally, 30 minutes of deleted scenes are also included, along with other Sony film trailers. Overall, the extras are nothing special, so don’t pick this release up just for them.
NEW Designing Death – Making of The Grudge (HD; 3:03)
NEW The Cast of the Cursed – Behind-the-scenes with cast and crew (HD; 3:44)
NEW Easter Egg Haunt – Connections to the Grudge franchise (HD; 4:47)
NEW Deleted scenes (HD; 30:07)
The Grudge is a generic re-imagining of the original franchise that suffers from a poorly-constructed narrative and jump scares galore. Only reason to get this admittedly-good Blu-ray is if you really want to own the movie.